Why Does My Neck Hurt After Sleeping?

Is there any sensation more unpleasant than waking from a full night of sleep only to find you cannot move your neck without pain and suffering? You are sure you must have battled dragons in your sleep to be in that much pain because there is no way you are that sore just from… sleeping. The pain can be mild and annoying or severe, and it is often combined with an inability to move the neck from a cramped and tilted position called torticollis. Torticollis is an irritation of the cervical ligaments that causes the head to tilt at an odd and uncomfortable angle, and depending on the severity, it may need medical intervention to resolve.

Unfortunately, as we age, we lose flexibility in our joints and spine, making it harder for our bodies to be in poor alignment while sleeping, which makes it more difficult to function the next day. Even a minor misalignment during sleep can cause a compression of nerves, muscles, and other tissues that leads to cramping and pain later on. The best way to deal with this problem is prevention and by correcting the spinal misalignments. But if you’re already dealing with the issue, moving forward with a healing and preventative mindset is ideal.

How Should I Be Sleeping?

  • Sleep on your side or back if possible.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Keep the room cool for better sleep and less tossing and turning.
  • Avoid curling up tightly.
  • Sleep with your arms straight at your sides.
  • Ensure your spine is aligned no matter what position you choose.
  • Keep your mattress in good shape and replace it when needed.
  • Have a mattress that is neither too firm nor too soft. It should support the curves of your body.
  • Gentle stretches before bedtime can help with relaxation and reduce muscle tension.
  • Always use the right kind of pillow for your sleep position of comfort:
    • Back sleepers need a pillow with a rounder area at the bottom to support the neck but a flatter portion where the head itself will rest.
    • Side sleepers need a pillow that is thicker under the neck than under the head.
    • Avoid overly lofty and large pillows or flat and hard pillows.
    • Use pillows that can conform to the shape of your head and neck.
    • Use a horseshoe-shaped travel pillow when sleeping upright, such as in a car or in a recliner.

In general, your nose should be aligned with your sternum and your hips aligned with your shoulders when you are sleeping. Imagine if the spine had a line going straight up through it and into the skull, and keep that line straight when you sleep. The neck should have a gentle curve back-to-front that is completely supported by a pillow or bolster, keeping the face from tilting too far down or up.

How Can Chiropractic Help?

If misalignments are the origins of your neck pain on waking, then not only can Dr. Lisetor help you learn how to best align your spine during sleep, but he can also correct them using gentle adjustments.

Reach out to us at Greater Life Chiropractic to get started back on your path to health and wellness today.


Cunha, B., Tadi, P., Bragg, B. N. (2022). Torticollis. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539857/

Harvard Medical School. (2022). Say “good night” to neck pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain